Monday, November 09, 2009

New and old tiles

click photo to enlarge
I'm currently debating whether or not to tile the floors of a couple of our downstairs rooms. I've laid floor tiles in the past and found it a relatively straightforward task: the hardest part, I recall, was deciding which tiles to buy! On that occasion I settled on some terracotta coloured quarry tiles. They were of a type that had been manufactured for more than a century, weren't especially fashionable, but were durable and looked good. Those were all qualities that appealed to me because I sometimes get quite exercised by the modern habit of furnishing with highly durable materials capable of lasting a couple of centuries which are then discarded in less than ten years because they have become unfashionable.

I've recently taken a couple of photographs of some tiles in two very different locations, and I thought I'd post them today. One image is a detail of a round outdoor table at a park cafe. Here the tiles - blue squares and triangles - were arranged by hand in concentric circles. The tables have the potential to last quite a few years, and the rain shouldn't be too much of a problem for the tiles or grout. But I have a feeling that I won't see them if I go for a cup of coffee five years from now. They'll probably stand the knocks that the public give them, but not the vagaries of fashion. I took the photograph for the bold shapes, strong contrast, and the way the reflected colours of the nearby building enlivened the surface.

The second image shows a detail of the tilework on the chancel walls of the church of St Mary at Sutterton, Lincolnshire. Much of this building dates from the twelfth to the fourteenth century. However, these tiles are High Victorian i.e. from about 1880. They are unusual for that period because each tile is a single shade, with none of the decorative details or impressed shapes that were favoured at the time, and because the force of the design comes solely from the arrangement of the limited number of colours. I can imagine that many would see these tiles as inappropriate in this setting - perhaps more suited to a municipal baths - but I like them a lot. The colour is quite rich, but the simple, repetitive design doesn't overpower the focus that is rightly on the altar. They've been there for 130 years or so, and there's no reason why they shouldn't double or triple that and still look as good as they do today.

photographs & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8 (f2.0)
Shutter Speed: 1/160 (1/30)
ISO: 80 (320)
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On